Teamwork changes Sue’s life after Stroke

Life was buzzing for Sue who loved working out, going on bush walks and working in the family’s successful photography business. However, her life abruptly changed in December 2019 when she had a stroke.  Sue’s husband, Kevin, recalls how Sue was immediately taken Royal North Shore hospital for round-the-clock care. After five weeks, she was referred to Royal Rehab Private Hospital for intensive neurological rehabilitation.

A crucial element to Sue’s rehabilitation was speech pathology, as Sue had Aphasia. Aphasia is a communication impairment that can affect as person’s ability to understand and use language. A key goal for Sue throughout her rehab, was to communicate, to improve her memory, and to re-develop her writing and reading skills. From the first day, Sue had a team of speech pathologists who supported her to achieve her communication goals. She credits them as being “incredibly supportive and caring”.

“At one point I felt quite depressed and felt like I wasn’t improving. It was then that the lovely speech pathologist, Vanessa, printed off a list of questions for me to write answers to. She compared it with the same question and answers I had ten days earlier and explained how much of an improvement I’ve made in that morning alone”.

Each and everyday Sue was improving her communication, writing and memory immensely. Some of her daily tasks included describing images, listening to phrases, writing shopping lists and schedules, keeping a regular diary on her computer, reading newspaper articles and brochures.

When asked about their experience with Royal Rehab as a whole, both Sue and Kevin agreed on a key factor – they loved the idea of having a full and cohesive team. “Everybody was very caring, and I loved having all of the specialists in the one place,” said Sue. “We really liked that there was a team and had regular team meetings with the Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapist, social workers, the doctor and other people in charge. There was a discussion amongst them, and it never feel disjointed. There was a feeling of teamwork that was working for you and really bringing everything together,” said Kevin.

After staying at Royal Rehab Private for seven weeks, Sue was discharged home but continued speech pathology one to two days/week with home-based rehab. One of Sue’s favourite tasks was the telehealth group sessions on Zoom, where she had formed a close relationship with another client. In these sessions Sue was asked to find a news article, form an opinion, read it out loud and discuss it with the group.

Another favourite for Sue was keeping a diary – a task she has chosen to continue to keep up with today. “Part of my problem was getting on a computer again, which I needed to do for my job. Putting my thoughts into words on the computer was fabulous and I can see myself getting better at it,” said Sue.

In a matter of months, Sue’s ability to communicate had improved immensely. She can hold a conversation clearly and her memory has significantly improved. “Initially, when she had her diary, she had a paragraph that did not make any sense to both her and I. It was just hieroglyphics. She has gone from that to writing quite normally now. At the start, she also struggled to write Thank You cards, but now she can do that with no trouble today,” said Kevin. When asked for her current goals in speech pathology, Sue mentions improving her already well-developed writing skills, however her husband was quick to jump in and make it clear. “Sue’s standards for writing is very high and her current standards would be higher than mine right now!”

“Computer skills are her next challenge. She can log on, do word documents and e-mails, and is working on developing the more complex processes that come with our business. I’m pretty convinced that Sue will make a complete recovery,” said Kevin. And a key win for Sue? She is now back to work on MYOB (an accounting program).

Sue and Kevin look forward to taking a break in their unit by the beach and eventually picking things back up to where they left off. “The goal is to be the same level I was before and there may be some challenges, it won’t be like before, but Kevin and I talk about it being a better version of me,” said Sue.

“Lily, Vanessa & Kate were amazing. Amanda – who we never met in person, but only met through tele-health, was strangely enough, the person who resonated with Sue the most and almost acted like a counsellor as well. She was lovely, caring and very thoughtful. She never failed to impress us.”

“I would like to go back one day and thank them all. They are all like little mothers – they pushed me out of the nest!” said Sue.

For more information on speech pathology, Royal Rehab Private or any of our rehabilitation therapies, please contact us on (02) 9808 9222 or click here for more information: